Port St. Lucie eyes multi-million dollar water park, but who would pay for it?

·3 min read

PORT ST. LUCIE — The city wants to build a water park, but it may need voter permission to borrow money and financial backing from St. Lucie County to pay for the$10 million to $25 million project.

The City Council Tuesday reviewed a feasibility study showing the possible cost and location of a water park.

If the project comes to fruition, it could be the Treasure Coast's second water park built in nearly a decade and Port St. Lucie's first.

However, questions remain, such as size of the water park and whether the city or a management company would run it.

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"It's not just a one-time investment," Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo said. "If you truly want a premier water park, it's going to take continual investments — three to five years — to ensure that you stay competitive in the market."

Caraballo suggested the county partnership; Mayor Shannon Martin proposed borrowing money to pay for it.

“I think it would be better if we plan on our own resources, our own funds," Martin said. "And then if (the YMCA and St. Lucie County) want to come onboard with what we're doing, we can rely on that and say, ‘Hey, it's going to cost us however much money less that we have to commit to it because they're going to help us out.”

Caraballo asked City Manager Russ Blackburn to gauge the county's interest.

County Commissioner Chair Sean Mitchell and Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson, in whose district the water park might be built, could not be reached Friday for comment, despite attempts by phone.

Consultants analyzed more than a dozen potential locations, and recommended Torino Regional Park for its proximity to residential areas and access to utilities such as water, sewer and electricity.

Port St. Lucie may build a multi-million dollar water park. The preferred site is Torino Regional Park.
Port St. Lucie may build a multi-million dollar water park. The preferred site is Torino Regional Park.

The most expensive option, a large regional water park, would be similar to Rapids Waterpark in Riviera Beach. Features could include single- and multi-rider slides, 1-meter diving boards, a wave pool, surf simulator, lazy river and parking for 400 cars.

That version could cost $10 million to $25 million depending on its size, according to consultants Kimley Horn and Counsilman Hunsacker.

It may cost roughly $793,000 to $2.2 million to operate the park for a 125-day season, according to George Deines with Counsilman Hunsacker. Profit estimates range from $487,000 to $2.3 million, depending on its size, meaning only the largest, most expensive option would yield a return on investment, assuming an admission price of about $20.

Martin expressed concerns about traffic.

"With a regional park, we're going to have a lot of flow into the traffic flow," Martin said. "It's not going to just be the residents in that area, and we already have issues out in Torino with the roadway."

The project would take about one year of planning and another year for construction, said Mark Hatchel, of Kimley Horn.

Rapid population growth would be a big benefit to attract customers, according to Hatchel, but proximity to competitors such as Sailfish Splash Waterpark in Martin County and fewer visitors than the Orlando area water parks such as Universal's Volcano Bay would be drawbacks.

Olivia McKelvey is TCPalm's watchdog reporter for St. Lucie County. You can reach her at olivia.mckelvey@tcpalm.com, 772-521-4380 and on Twitter @olivia_mckelvey.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Multi-million dollar water park may be coming to Port St. Lucie

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